Today I came alone, as so often. I enjoy walking. I am captivated by the aromas and feel the energy of the place. Withstands the weather becomes already a challenge, but worth coming here. I watch the parade of people, this is a rich contrast. I evade myself among the murmur of multiple conversations and reach my favorite terrace. Al Koot Café.
Here it’s prepared -for me- the best lemon mint.
The waiters are friendly. They know me, say hello and smile. Sometimes they say a few words in Spanish and I accompanied my juice with a shisha. As usual, it is flavored with mint.
I am not alone, my words join me and I liberate them through the lines of this notebook, which always comes with me.
Fans soft the feeling of hot and spray tiny drops of water to relieve the sultriness offered by this climate.
I’m still smoking and my view is recreated in the landscape. Irregular yellowish stucco facades cut the skyline. The majestic moon hangs overhead and provides magic to the night.
I come back to myself. Come back to the one I was when I arrived to this city. To the one I have been the past few troubled months. And I leave again myself, breathing.
I feel peaceful, lucky to be here, grateful for the sense of peace and I enjoy the moment.
I do not think about the future. I forget the past and enjoy my lemon mint, my shisha and the simple moment, sitting right here. Al Koot Café.
Doha, May 29th, 2014
Once upon a time, many years ago, a courteous gentleman lived in a faraway kingdom. He was a young man with a noble heart. One day our knight was walking in the forest. Suddenly he saw a clearing among the trees. It caught his attention. He stopped, sat there and a deep sense of peace pervaded his soul. Something special had that site that made him feel in harmony. The air was cool. The sun caressing his skin and from there he could hear the sound of a creek passing not far away. The colors of the vegetation fed his spirit. And he knew that over there he felt good. Or rather, he felt it.
He called me a few days later. He wanted to build a house, but to do it without a project. In that place it was not allowed to build, because the proprietor was the monarch and that meant what we now call undeveloped land.
There were good architects in the region. Many of them were better than me. Also, there were engineers and interior designers. But he chose me. I suspect he was not looking me because of my expertise as a technical or my ability with the design. He wanted someone to accompany him in the difficult moments, a helping hand. He wanted a person able of putting some band aids on his soul if necessary.
Do you want a house without a project? I thought our guy was crazy. We cannot do that, and I explained and I argued with endless reasons. In fact he said “we’re going to build the foundation. Forget about the house”.
Slightly incredulous, I designed a structural base. It was a flexible one because we did not know how the space would be later. We didn’t even know if there would be a later one. We could not build on that site, any time they could force him to leave a place in the forest that was not his. But by then he was already completely in love.
He built the foundation with his own hands. Enjoying every moment he spent there. He was lucky and was not forced to stop to build, so he called me to design and calculate the structure. At that time I had already understood him and I didn’t think to change his mind. Once we had built the structure, he got from the life a new chance with the place that he was in love with.
Then we created the façades and partitions. His family and friends tried to dissuade him. Why do you spend money, energy and time in a house that has no future? That land is not yours and one day you will be forced you to leave it. They didn’t see the shine in his eyes every single day he was passing. That time was not an investment but a way of life, a way to be happy in the present.
His parents had a plot and tried to change his mind. If you build here, my son, in the future, at the end, you will have a house.
Our gentleman was so young and did not think about any “the end.” He felt so happy so he went ahead. But he did it without any project. He just built a new stage every time he had the chance.
Not many people perceived the brightness of his soul in every brick standing. He didn’t take the motivation from the dream, from the image of a finished place. The idea that one day he could be forced to leave the place did not make him stop.
I don’t know what happened to him. I left to another kingdom before the end of his house. I said him goodbye with a hug, praying to God that a miracle happened and could buy that piece of land or to make some kind of concession from the king. Nevertheless he was happy. He lived every moment, without thinking about the future. He enjoyed the present, each moment lived in this magical place was a gift.
What do you use to do? Do you live the moment? Do you think about the future? Do you feel a good balance in your life between the enjoyment from the present and the way to your future projects?
I hope the gentleman finished well his story. Inshalla!
Since I live in this country I have very clear that the best of my work are my companions. I found an amazing human quality. With these people going every day to the office is great. We are building very interesting emotional links and we are constantly learning from each other.
It often happens that a person has a concern with a project and he/she tells it to a colleague. When you expose the question, you listen to yourself and your own conclusion at the end of your explanation. It happened in college and happens in all architectural offices. And in the working groups, belong to the sector that is.
Do you know what I’m talking about? It happens, also, with personal situations. If you don’t know how to deal with a situation, or there is a dilemma that cannot solve, you tell a friend or someone in your family. Although you had already studied it mentally, you had not made the speech as you do for that person understands you. And then, you will hear yourself and you realize you have ordered your thoughts and you already know which path to choose.
Usually the best advice is not advice. To help someone is better listen. And ask questions to reveal all information or feeling. If you have skill, you can introduce some key questions like “what do you do you want?” Or “what if …?”
We cannot decide on the other but we can help you to discover his/her own decision. Technically it is very easy. Just forget yourself and focus all attention on the other person. But you have to make an emotional effort, as we tend to be focused toward ourselves and often costs us really listen to the other.
Giving advice is easy, fast and gives us a false sense of being superheroes. How great I am and what a good friend, daughter or partner, because I gave (my?) solution to this person. And we allow ourselves to think that it’s your best option. ”
We can propose, if you like, to hear more and more actively to the people that we love. It will be the best way to help. Let us avoid the advice and ask questions to guide our friend, our son or our partner to discover his or her own answer, do you think?
And when we have a situation of doubt, I propose that we tell someone what we can listen (not a giver of advice). Everyone has treasures of those who not only put their time but are with you with their six senses whenever you need it.
In the office I picked up a project I worked on for months. I remember I did the job hard. Fortunately, I had my companions always willing to help. And sometimes I felt embarrassed so often because I need to be helped by people fresh out of college.
The fact is that after a while working with other buildings, I’m back to it and I appreciated my professional growth. I mean basics, but when I brought not put in series, so that I looked hard and I used to drown in a glass of water.
Moreover, my English has improved. Not as much as I should, but I uploaded many steps. And I’m going to become better because I hardly ever speak Spanish . I have moved and now live with three housemates who have English as their mother language (they are from Australia, America and England). So we started off (finally) with the language.
My life in the city has become more comfortable. I begin to feel that this is my site. I begin to have the same vibration as this place. I move with ease, driving without thinking, I know the places. I remember how uncomfortable certain situations that I now go unnoticed. I think I tuned in Doha. I must say, I have made it easy. Here we are all welcome. It is a country where less than twenty percent of its residents are native. The rest come out and greet us so friendly. It is a Muslim country, but all cultures are welcome and there is mutual and exemplary respect.
My coworkers and my friends- who are the same- start to be there “forever.” You know that feeling that the people next to you are your lifelong friends … yeah, whatever how long you know them? That is how I feel. And what happens is that I feel so comfortable when I’m with them, I am myself. And when you are yourself, you flow and bring out the best in you. And feel happy.
So I’ve realized that my comfort zone has expanded. Issues before scared me now I seem natural. Others that made me feel uncomfortable, are part of my daily life.
And I’ve learned that I will not relax at all. I want to keep growing. Maybe now I need some time to explore this new area and lay my growth. But I will never stop.
Tell me, what areas are you growing in now? How often do you leave your territory, which makes you feel comfortable / a?
Check out the story of your life. When did you grow more? What feelings, what experiences did you expand your space?
Are we continuing to grow up?
Sometimes we can develop a project even if we know that it will never be built. Imagine you have a great idea and you start drawing. As you progress, you feel seduced and you fall in love with it. You start playing and it arrives some time when you think that it should be built … it’s an idea too good to remain on paper!
You study the situation and realize that may not be possible because it takes much money to build it and no one is willing to invest in it or for several reasons. Maybe the plot has an environment protection. Or it may be an idea too great to be carried out .
But you’re concern with the project and want to continue designing, testing, falling in love with it. Sure there will be someone around you to tell you’re wasting your time. You have no concept of reality and the energy you invest in these drawings is worthless because there are other deliverables projects (able to be built) and not this you are dedicating your work.
Okay, at this point you like your idea and you know you will never carry it out. But you have thought about surprising spaces, perfect materials, the colors, the circulations. You know there is no future and realize that taking time and work to this design is like a dream. You enjoy it, you taste it, but one day you will wake up. And you decide to focus on the present, which is to continue designing and spend pretty time with your (not able to built) ideas.
Have you ever being dreaming and you knew that you were doing it? I have. It has happened several times and I managed the dream. I have flown and have found wonderful landscapes I guess my subconscious built. Much nicer than I could have imagined being awake. And the feeling was real. Completely real.
It is the same with this project you have in hand. You know that one day you will wake up. That will end all … halas! (It means “finished” in Arabic). So you concentrate on your present, in the lines you draw, in the spaces that you set, at the play between the materials. And this makes you feel good.
What happens next?
It comes one day when you wake up. The dream ends and the project cannot be built. I get sad. Maybe you cry a little. And at the same time, you smile because you spent pleasant moments designing these spaces. The feelings that you’ve lived and experienced were real. While you were dreaming, welfare produced you and love you felt for the project were real. Still with moist eyes, give thanks for having this dream. And wide awake, you welcome to whatever project is coming. And you know you will never be the same person after designing this space. You will always remember it.
Then you realize that it’s not halas! But pleased to dream you. And give thanks to life, to God or to the Universe for it.
Have you lived many dreams? Have you spent time on a project, knowing that no future? Do you think you have to enjoy every moment knowing that it will end? I have decided to enjoy all the good things life offers me, either a dream or real. Do you?
Thursday afternoon. I finish work and the weekend starts. Here we rest on Friday and Saturday. Sunday is a working day and Friday is the holy day. Almost nobody works (some do it on Saturdays). But Friday is something like our Lord’s Day. In the morning, shops and establishments remain closed. Men go to the masjids and the call to prayer is different from the rest of the week.
In the afternoon everyone smartens up and goes out. Molls and restaurants are mottled with people. The main entertainment in this city is going out for lunch or dinner. There are many places to enjoy the local and international gastronomy. Actually, they use to be cheaper than in Europe.
Anyway, it’s Thursday afternoon. Or rather, at night, then at six-thirty and the sun has set, even though it’s June. Yes, the sun rises at four o’clock. We worked the whole week and I feel tired, but I need to write. My book follows up and it asks me treats. So, instead of driving home, I go to this Souk, my favorite place in Doha.
Following my routine, I take a walk and then look for a terrace to sit and enjoy a delicious lemon-mint and a shisha to smoke. My mother is concerned that, despite having a very smooth snuff, I can end up being addicted to nicotine. I tell her that I only ask for a juice, but she does not believe me. Many Westerners do not like this water pipe, so characteristic of the Arab world, but I love it. It is part of a ritual. A social ritual, because we carry out with friends and, on Thursday night, I enjoy it with my own company. Since coming here I have regained ground and have fun myself. Not only at home –where I knew to do it-but outside, in public spaces.
Here the atmosphere is fantastic. Although it is hot, there is a breeze that caresses your skin. People are walking. Qatari, Western, non-Qatari Arab and Asian Oriental people. Their movement defines the landscape, this public space as distinctive and genuine.
In the neighboring tables are almost all conversations in Arabic. Also there are some in English. And in other languages.
I feel comfortable.
If I look up from my notebook, Qatari architecture with which this souk was reconstructed gives me delicious images. And, at the end the skyline of Al Fanar. A beacon for the faithful and it serves as a meeting point for supporters of Islam, even If they are not Muslim. They offer workshops, Arabic classes and other free activities.
You hear a constant buzz of people going. And shisha scent pervades the atmosphere. This space is a treat for all the senses.
Suddenly I notice that someone stands next to my table. I raise my head and two mates of the office have come to greet me. They are a pleasant surprise and a nice company to continue this evening. They take seat and I still enjoy the place, conversation and friends.
This is Souq Waqif and that’s how I live it. What spaces do make you feel comfortable? Where can you enjoy both your own company and with more people? What places, public or private ones, closed or opened, stimulate all your senses?
I’ve been here for six months and I have worked with buildings designed with what we call “Qatari style”. With a special Arabic aesthetics, some construction techniques based on tradition and customs of the place and a way to organize itself in Middle East. And I wonder, could we mix styles?
I remember an artistic architectural style that was characterized by mixing elements from different periods of history and different styles, the Eclecticism. Some buildings projected Western architects choosing what they considered the “best” of every time or everywhere. Actually, eclectic means chosen.
With globalization it seems that boundaries blur and that there are not many cultural differences between areas. But there are. It’s said by one European who lives in Middle East. We enrich, it helps us to learn, to grow, to change our point of view … in short, they are positive. But even, there are differences.
Could we design a building of choices of each style? In terms of form, aesthetics, appearance. And could we select construction techniques, structural, etc. that best worked? So, how to project, to organize and build the work? It would be a good mix, right? I think it can. Moreover, I am sure there are many examples.
The hard part comes now, can we mix people? I have friendship with Arab and Muslim exceptional people. They are more than good. I have no doubt. So, we can mix friends.
The question is, can a mixed couple work well? For many years I thought so. Imagine a relationship where one person is Arabic and its religion is based on the Quran. And the other person is Western. For example, from Europe. I will not say that he or she is a Christian because the hallmark of most of us is the culture, not religion. I have always been convinced that yes. And it was not a simple thought, it’s based on a deeply personal experience.
Now I’m living in the Arabian Peninsula, with European and Arab friends. And I use to deal with mixed couples. I guess, is this cultural difference a inevitably condemns the relationship to fail? And I think not. I remember that with love, tolerance and respect they can overcome difficulties, build bridges and end up having a rich relationship. And you can even establish a multicultural family.
Other times I think that the issue is very delicate. That understanding is energy intensive and there really significant differences.
When I see mixed couples, they cause me a feeling of tenderness, admiration and sadness. The sadness is because I know they need to overcome barriers to maintain a cordial and successful relationship.
In short, I believe that it is possible that a relationship between a Muslim and a European one success. But if I’m honest … I am not sure. What do you think? If you respond or answer, do it without prejudice. Try to be objective and have a tolerant tone. So what do you think?
A few months ago I bought a plant and put it in my bathroom. A Galatea, which is one of my favorite ones. Gradually their leaves have been getting sad and falling. I think it’s the heat. I’ve taken to the living room where the air conditioning is on almost all day. I think it has begun to rise again.
The one that I bought in Spain before coming was not so lucky. I took it the home that my parents have in the country. I asked the girl for a strong plant to resist the cold of the highlands and could stay several weeks without being watered, because sometimes my parents spend time without going to town. It died because of cold.
Plants that can not resist extreme conditions extremes in temperature… And people who are able to adapt to any situation. In fact I am living in a desert. The air we breathe comes directly from the machines that cool. And about oxygen, I am not sure where from. I do not think from the four or five trees that we have in this city. Otherwise, we are almost all the time in thermal comfort conditions. Closed buildings, air-conditioning in houses, air conditioning car … The same happens in reverse in geographic areas where it is the cold that threat.
Human beings are able to live anywhere in the world, however they are arid or icy conditions. And architects learn, think and devise ways to shelter from inclement weather. Not only for shelter, but to be comfortable and at ease in them.
And tell me, is the human being amazing by the ability to design and implement living spaces regardless of what happens outside? Or we are mad and we are creating atrocities? Do we think about ecology, sustainability … about the logic? Would it make more sense that we all lived in latitudes where weather is not so exaggerated?
I honestly do not know the answer. I’ve always liked studying interior construction systems to isolate, to protect them. Not so much, but I have studied also the facilities.
We can turn off night and turn on day. Modify the humidity of a room and create a ski area in the desert, as our neighbor Dubai did. My feeling about this is twofold: I’m surprised, amazed by what technology and construction are able to create. And, at the same time, I am sad and desolate because we are contradicting the laws of Nature. This cannot be good.
For thousands and thousands and thousands of years men and women have developed their life during the day and stayed overnight. I do not think it possible that in a few generations we adapt to do otherwise, or steal hours to our break.
Will we get to create unbelievable and unimaginable buildings and facilities or will we be victims of all this artifice? Because it is also true that there are new illness, allergies, intolerances … Does this have any relationship with the estrangement from Nature?
You know that since I’m here I talk a lot about God. Does God want that we respect geographical areas and climates or did he give us a brain to overcome them?
What do you think?
Throughout my life I have had the opportunity to meet many people guided by a firm belief in their religion. At times I felt lost and I had some jealousy for them. It was only in recent years when I developed my spirituality
Now that I live in a Muslim country, now that I interact closely with people walking through life according to the precepts of Islam, I realize that they live differently.
Religion is not one facet of their lives… it’s the central branch from which all the others develop. They have no doubt. They believe in God and are happy.
I’ve restarted yoga classes. I like them, but here they are different. We do exercises, practice asana and connect with our body. But we don’t look for a spiritual dimension as it was in Europe. Here that is covered. The last years in Valencia I practiced yoga, attended to meditation sessions and enjoyed several retreats in nature. I had the opportunity to meet people who, somehow, were looking for meaning in their lives and others who had found it and became a sort of guide for those seekers.
Unfortunately, too many people that I met were lost. Well, nobody here is in that situation. If I look to the West from this site I can see a strong spiritual crisis, a void that has been installed in the lives of many people.
I have friends who think faith is linked to a low cultural and intellectual level. And that’s not what I’ve found in the Middle East (or what I had seen in many Catholics). I’m surrounded by technical, scientific spirit minds that know that God is the beginning and the end of everything and I marvel at the strong belief they have.
I’ve seen them happy after prayer. I’ve noticed that enjoy life, because God wills it. Even knowing that another life waits for them, an eternal one, they value and appreciate what happens in it. And their movements are guided by a value system very similar to mine. They offer love and generosity, as their sacred texts claim.
They ask and thank God as I do to the Universe. They have very clear what is the road and face the difficulties with complete acceptance, because nothing happens without Allah wanted it.
Their souls are always at home. What about yours? Is it at place or goes missing? Has it traveled wandering, as it did at times mine? And most importantly, are you happy as well?
Almost five months in Doha and I’m used to use the system we work in the office. No major differences with respect to the customs we had in Spain, but I found some of them, eg, use millimeters as units of length. Until now, I had always used the meters and I was not even aware. I remember when my friend Teresa went to live in London and she told me that her office was not working with the International System of Units and had to learn to cast with feet and inches.
Fortunatelly, going from meters to millimeters practically did not change anything. And sometimes I will discuss with my colleagues to use such a small unit in architecture exaggeration to me. With the margin of error we work two millimeters are not going anywhere. I, of course, defend my unit. And one day our boss said that was true, but that the meters are not comfortable because they force you to use decimals. The perfect unit for us would be the centimeter.
One way or another, I got used to speak of lengths in millimeters (almost with everybody) and one day I worked on a project that laddered by our new colleague, who is a Spanish boy. And, surprise … I went back to the meters for a few days! Then I realized I could work comfortably with both units.
This example is simple because the difference of one unit to another is the place which is the comma. But there are different systems that we can use at once. As for example, languages. When we learn a new language, we tend to forget others than we don’t use. I have the good fortune to use English (as best I can) and keep talking in French. I do it with my colleagues, engineers, structures calculators (in French and with units in centimeters). Sometimes I cross or mix both languages, but overall, I’m getting better with each and every one is in place inside my brain.
Learn a method is not to overlook other, but sometimes we let it happen. Relate to some people means one way and communicate with others, to do otherwise. Had you ever thought? And we are perfectly capable of doing well with different systems. For some people it is innate, are perfectly suited to the registration of the other person , adjust their speed, the body language, even … the rhythm of your breathing. Some people bring this skill set. The rest, we can learn. We can calibrate our speaker system and fit ours… establish rapport!
In the books that teach social and communication skills, they explain the keys to suit the other person. Imitate without imitating. If we do well, we will be welcomed without the other’s knowledge.
When someone close is sad and has little energy, you cannot get euphoric, display your strength and say, in a loud voice, “Come on, cheer yourself up. Be happy… Be positive! “. This burst are very violent. Instead, we can approach slowly, adjust the height of the gaze to his, the tone of his voice, body posture and even the rhythm of our breath. In that state, we can join, be with him or her. And when you have created the tune, then, little by little and sooo slowly, begin to pull the thread. Let’s get the degree of energy slowly and notice if he or she follows us. To do well you have to be practical, but all we can and if we put love affair, we can become real good friends of a sad person. Or scared, or angry. Provided, starting with the record or tune system which moves at the time.
I don’t know how I did, I started talking about millimeters and I’m done with rapport issues … I may, right?
What systems do you usually work in your life, your job, with your family…? What makes you feel most comfortable? I refer not only to units of measurement. We all use some tools or other. Were you aware?